By Gladys Kalibbala
Although built over 80 years ago, the first storeyed house at Nalugala village in Katabi sub-county, Wakiso district still stands strong and incomparable to the current buildings, which collapse before completion.
Interestingly, the house was built without cement. The builders just used soil. Where a bigger concrete would be expected in place to separate the upper floor from down, huge timber was used and has never been replaced. There was, therefore, no reason for cementing the upper floor leaving it with wood, which does not creak at all even after so many years.
However, the ground floor was cemented to prevent dust. The roof has also been intact for the last 80 years and except for the iron sheets turning brown because of rust and dust, it does not leak. This house was built by the late Paul Mukasa, the father to Victoria Nalongo Namusisi the former resident district commissioner for Mpigi district. Mukasa who died in 1996, was a fisherman from Nsazi islands on Lake Victoria, who later bought land at Nalugala village and built the house. This earned him the name Mukasa Kalina, according to residents of the area. The road leading to this house has been named after him.
Many people still wonder what could have been used that has kept the house intact, especially without use of cement, iron bars and sand, which are the symbols of strength in today’s construction industry.Namusisi says she found the house there. She says according to her father, cement was rare and very expensive those days. She says her father told her cement could only be used by missionaries to construct hospitals, churches and schools.
The walls of Mukasa’s house were built with small burnt bricks using pure soil without a trace of any clay, which many believe helps while building without cement.
Deo Kateregga, a boda boda rider in the area, says he has seen this house almost hanging in space until recently when a verandah was constructed around it. “Yes, it had no verandah and we never wanted to tamper with its beauty, but recently, my brother, an engineer, suggested it required a verandah to keep it in shape as it seemed to hang in air.” Namusisi says.
Timber from islands Namusisi believes the hard timber used was from the Ssesse islands, where mature trees could be traced those days. “By then, few people dared cross to the waters, giving a chance to such trees like Nkoba, Nkusu, Mpewere, Nkooma to grow well unlike nowadays when even the islands are becoming bare,” she notes.
Transportation to the mainland was also a challenge those days according to her. It is believed the same timber was used to make windows and doors for the house because ever since they were fixed, nothing has been changed or damaged. Namusisi says the expertise displayed by builders, who were trained by missionaries, those days, could have helped in putting in place her father’s strong house. “They loved their work and built the house with a lot of care.
According to her, they were not money-minded, but focussed on doing professional work. Building with soil Chrizestom Kiwanuka, 86, has been a builder for many years, having been trained at Kisubi Technical Institute in 1948. He participated in building Manyago quarters in Entebbe Municipality and explains about using soil. “I built my house with bricks, joined by soil mixed with clay, but it has been in place for over 60 years. It’s the same with many government houses and churches. The firmness depends on the soil in the area. What should be noted is that such soil is prepared and kept covered with grass for about two weeks.
Afterwards it is then prepared again by mixing it with some little water to enable someone to mash it well with feet in order to remove the hard particles. Once this is done it’s ready for use, but you must make sure that you prepare what will be used and don’t leave it overnight as it will harden. I still use the same method for my houses at home and have not been disappointed.